Better or worse: Slightly (the smallest amount) worse
Listen, before you get all up in arms over me saying the secondary is “slightly worse” on paper than the 2020 version, just realize that I think the potential of this group is endless.
I have to say that the secondary starts the season in worse shape than it was in 2020 because the Ducks did have a handful of players from the defensive backfield leave for the NFL. Sure, some did opt out of the 2020 season such as Jevon Holland and Thomas Graham Jr. but guys like Nick Pickett and Deommodore Lenoir did play.
This year’s secondary can be better and I believe it’s going to eventually be, but it also took a major hit with Jamal Hill (nickel) and DJ James (cornerback) getting suspended. I factored that in to the outlook so if both of those guys avoided offseason issues and suspensions, I would say this year’s secondary would be slightly better than 2020’s.
Dontae Manning and Mykael Wright will be one of the best duos at cornerback in the Pac-12 and Verone McKinley III and Steve Stephens IV will be solid at safety. Bennett Williams takes over at nickel which leaves some uncertainty but the two-deep is still solid all around.
When Hill and James come back to bolster the depth, I would give this secondary the nod over 2020’s.